In 1991 my wife (Stacy) and I lived in the San Diego area. I had a job that required I commute to the Los Angeles area on Monday mornings, start the week in a Holiday Inn, and commute home on Friday afternoon. We both hated this arrangement, but without this job, Rhonda would never have come into our lives.
Upon returning to the Inn one Monday or Tuesday after work, there was a young (5-6 months) orange, long-haired kitten trying to into the Inn. She would dart in the front door when it was opened and then someone inside would put her back outside. This bothered me and I went to a supermarket and bought supplies for the kitten; food, water, and litter. I scrounged up a cardboard box to make a litter box.
She was in the parking lot when I returned with the supplies. I offered her some wet food right there on the pavement and she gobbled it up. While she was eating I setup her living quarters in my blue Miata. When the kitten's tummy was full, I put her into my Miata and sat with her awhile. Eventually, I returned to my room for the night.
The next morning I went to my car and discovered the kitten had been kind to my Miata. The litter box had been used and my car had been spared any mess. This little orange kitten continued her good behavior through the rest of the week. I kept her supplied with food and water, scooped her litter box, and held and stroked her. I was introduced to a purr that would become familiar in the years to come.
Her home that week was the blue Miata. When I parked the car at work, I looked for a shaded spot and cracked the windows so she wouldn't get hot. I would check on her at least twice during the work day and the Miata remained at a comfortable temperature and she remained on her best behavior. That was to be a personality trait that she would keep her entire life.
At last Friday afternoon arrived. The drive home was uneventful as the kitten remained calm and relaxed the entire drive home. There was one significant event: The Beach Boys came on singing "Help Me Rhonda" and I looked at the kitten and said "If you are a girl, you just got your name." In those days I wasn't very good at telling boy kittens from girl kittens.
Soon after joining our family, a trip to the vet for a checkup and vaccinations proved that she was, indeed, a Rhonda. It was not difficult integrating Rhonda into our feline family. With her addition, we had nine cats. Rhonda was a get-along kitty. She didn't want to make waves or cause problems. Soon our household was humming along smoothly with our newest addition. An enduring memory I have of Rhonda is her purr. The sound wasn't specifically unique to her, but she was so generous with it. It seemed that if I just thorugh about touching her, Rhonda would purr. At the vet, when her temperature was taken she would purr. Her purr was so loud and constant that the vet had a hard time checking her heartbeat.
In her early years Rhonda enjoying eating and tended to eat a little too much and she was a bit on the full figured side. As the years went by, Rhonda tended to have trouble keeping the weight on. We fed Rhonda a wet prescription food and she enjoyed it very much. When she was hungry she would sit up at attention with her "perk" look and sometimes throw in a silent meow for good measure. If I didn't notice her, I'd feel a very soft touch of her paw on my arm. Oh how powerful that touch was.
At about 15 years of age, blood tests revealed the begining of renal failure. We begain hydrating (subcutaneous fluids) once a day. Hydration is a treatment (but not a cure) for renal failure. At times it can seem miraculous because the hydration helps the cat's body to do what it no longer does efficiently. Each day as I hydrated Rhonda, she cooperated fully, and... she purred. Every now and then if I stuck her poorly with the needle, she'd turn to me and say "eh!" and that was the extent of her objection.
Let me stray from Rhonda's story for a brief moment to extol the virtues of hydration. If you have a cat that is 15+ years old, you almost certainly have a cat in some stage of renal failure. Hydration is a treatment that the cat owner can do at home, easily and economically. Hydration can literally add extra, comfortable, happy months and even years to your elder cat's life. Ask your vet if hydration is appropriate for your cat. It should only be done with your vet's approval. You can contact FuRR for further information about hydration. Now back to Rhonda's story.
As the years went by, Rhonda needed more help to be comfortable. She needed a mild laxative to prevent constipation. She needed an appetite stimulant to keep her appetite up. She eventually developed diabetes and required insulin injections. Every time I medicated her, Rhonda rewarded me with her sweet purrs.
We were always mindful of her quality of life. We very much wanted Rhonda to live with us forever, but not at her expense. We observed her for indications that she was not comfortable or in distress. She received regular vet checkups (including blood work) to evaluate her condition. We often examined her treatment regimen to be sure we were doing for her and not to her.
Every Christmas was a milestone in her life with us. We'd wonder if this would be her last one. Christmas 2009 had us wondering more than ever. Rhonda had started to get frequent upper respiratory infections, though happily, they always responded to medication.
Finally, in February 2010, one did not. She was having trouble breathing and was laboring just to exist. A "scope" procedure by the vet proved it was not an infection. They laryhnx has two flaps that open and close for breathing and the flaps were no longer opening very well. There is no treatment. Even before the scope, our vet had observed how hard it was for Rhonda just to exist. The anesthesia tube required for the scope procedure gave her clear, unobstructed breathing. While Rhonda was comfortable under anesthesia, with our vet's concurrence, Stacy and I made the painful but clear decision to give Rhonda her final peace.
We had our dear girl cremated and she rests in a wooden urn which contains a picture fram. In the frame is the picture that begins our tale. If you're wondering why the little blue car and the surfboard in the lower corner of the picture? Remember Rhonda begain her life with us in the Miata and The Beach Boys named her.
We came to Arkansas in 1992 with nine cats. Sweet Rhonda, purring Rhonda, was our last California kitty.